Landover, Md. – For the Washington Redskins, Sunday's NFC Wild Card playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks was a little bit of history - it was only the second time in the NFL that two rookie quarterbacks went head-to-head in the postseason. The winner would also be the only rookie quarterback left standing in the next round of the playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, history stopped there.
After what head coach Mike Shanahan called “probably their best first quarter,” the Redskins Robert Griffin III and the offense slowly derailed as the Seahawks rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to top the Redskins 24-14, leaving Seattle’s rookie quarterback Russell Wilson as the last freshman quarterback standing in the NFL playoffs.
For Redskins fans, the season far exceeded expectations as they watched their top draft pick bring their team to its first playoff berth since 2007 - but it also left fans looking towards a cloudy outlook to next season until more is clear about RG3’s latest knee injury.
Griffin, who sprained the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee in the Skins' victory over the Ravens December 9th, was clearly not playing at full capacity in recent weeks, and appeared to re-aggrevate his knee during the first quarter Sunday.
“I’m the quarterback of this team and my job is to be out there if I can play,” said Griffin. “I don’t feel like me being out there hurt the team in anyway. I’m the best option for this team and that’s why I’m the starter.”
And RG3 did play, for awhile.
The Redskins started off the game the way they needed to, by delivering back-to-back touchdown drives against a stout Seahawks defense.
In 20 plays and 134 yards over 11 minutes of the first quarter, Griffin, along with fellow rookie phenom, running back Alfred Morris, led the Skins to a 14-0 score. In between the drives, the Redskins defense did its part by stopping the Seahawks with a split sack of Russell Wilson by two of Washington’s top defensive lineman London Fletcher (last week’s NFC defensive player of the week) and Stephen Bowen.
Yet the Redskins could not sustain any momentum the rest of the game.
Seattle’s defense slowly and methodically worked the Redskins offense dry, as the Seahawks offense spent the second quarter on a slow comeback, beginning with a 32-yard field goal from Seattle kicker Stephen Hauschka early in the second quarter.
On a later drive, Wilson faked a handoff to running back Marshawn Lynch and fumbled, but Lynch was able to recover the ball for the Seahawks and advance it for a 20-yard gain, setting up a four-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to fullback Michael Robinson to cut Washington’s lead to 14 - 10.
On the Redskins next drive, RG3’s pass intended for wide receiver Pierre Garcon was picked off bythe Seahawks defense in what ultimately shifted gears in Seattle’s favor, and led to a short field goal to pull the Seahawks to within a point, as the Redskins took a 14 - 13 lead into halftime.
Seattle opened the third quarter with a long drive that at first quieted the crowd at Fed Ex, only to see Lynch spoil it with a fumble at the goalline. The Redskins, however, were unable to capitalize on the gift, and both teams traded punches without a score until midway through the fourth quarter, when Lynch avenged his turnover, running 27 yards to give Seattle its first lead of the game. A 2-point conversion gave the Seahawks a 21-14 lead with seven minutes left.
The Redskins' comeback was simply not meant to be.
On the ensuing drive, RG3 went down for good, falling to the ground in a heap as he tried to handle a bad snap. The Seahawks recovered the ball, and soon followed with a 22-yard Stephen Hauschka field goal that put the game on ice.
Griffin's final play leaves fans with a vivid and haunting memory to last through the long off-season.
Ultimately though, Griffin, who said he did put himself "at more risk by being out there,” justified his actions.
“Every time you step on the football field in between those lines you put your life, your career, every single ligament in your body in jeopardy,” said Griffin.
As for his knee, RG3 said he’ll know “in the next few days” how much damage was done.
For fans worried about Griffin and his knee, the NFL Rookie of the Year candidate offered a little comfort.
“We’ll look back and see we won seven games, we finished 10-6, won our division and that was awesome,” said Griffin. “We know the future is very bright. The sky’s the limit for this team.”
It will also give the Redskins a chance to settle a score that includes now three playoff losses in a row to the Seattle Seahawks.
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